Layoffs hit Houston amid oil prices plunge

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Far from the corporate headquarters of energy and oil services companies in Houston, some of which announced layoffs during the prolonged decline in oil prices, there is pain about the price at the pump.

In the small town of Simonton, we found Mike Jones, who lost his job with Schlumberger in the past week. This week, the company announced it was cutting some 9,000 jobs globally because of the collapse in crude oil prices.

Jones was called in to a meeting, coincidentally the day after his birthday. He didn't see it coming.

"I was told it was because of falling oil prices and the company was streamlining. I was the lead tech. I thought my job was safe," he said.

In recent days, other corporate layoffs have been announced, including some by Swift Energy and Apache. More are expected, despite an upturn in the price of West Texas crude.

Cheaper gasoline has been celebrated as a kind of tax cut for consumers, who have more money to spend as a result.

Those in the Houston area oil patch see it differently.

In Baytown, where refineries are being expanded, economists say that "downstream" sector of the industry will do well. If you talk to Dale Cox, whose family has owned Rooster's Steak House for nearly 50 years, you'll hear a different story.

There are service companies in Baytown tied to exploration, places with trucks and steel pipes.

"I have customers who say they're getting phone calls with orders being cancelled. It's scary for them," Cox said.

Social media sites like Reddit have posts from white collar workers in Houston who say they're looking for new jobs after layoffs as well. They too say they work in the oil industry.

The downturn has an uncertain end. Some say it will be short-lived. Others predict it will extend well into 2015.

Back in Simonton, Jones is praying it will be a quick recovery. His brother, who also worked in the industry, was laid off as well. Jones has a wife, a newborn, and five other children to support. And the family's insurance benefits run out at the end of the month.

Of cheap gas prices, he says what a lot of oil workers are saying these days: "It's good for you, but it's costing a lot of us our jobs."
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